2020 Garden Prep: This Year’s Gardening Lessons

Alright, confession time.

A lot of people have told me they wished they could garden, but just weren’t good at it. While I do have a lot of success, I also screw up every year. I am almost always accidentally killing something or letting something go to waste. I don’t know how to handle every pest or why I can’t get the basil to sprout from seed!

But I see that as the true value of gardening. It’s not a skill that happens overnight—there are a lot of variables. It takes time, patience and braving the learning curve. But gardening is a skill we should keep alive to pass to the next generation.

Oops, I Did it Again

Once again, I let my beans go too long and they got “beany” as my dad puts it. They get swollen with the bean and the lack of water makes the pod filled with air instead of juicy bean. They would taste stringy, stale and tough. They don’t even make good baby food when they are like this.

Thinning overgrown green beans end of garden season harvest

When they think they have produced seeds for next year, they stop producing new ones. Sadly, I tore out the dying plants that seemed completely passed saving, and I clipped the oversized beans on other plants to save what I could. I absolutely hate wasting fresh food. If I would have picked them last week, I would have gotten at least another meal or two’s worth.

It’s pretty normal to have failures for more than one year:

  • My basil didn’t come up (AGAIN). I’m going to have to put more research into this because I suspect I am planting it at the wrong time. My brother’s Italian neighbor plants his from seed every year and has Italian basil that could make anyone jealous. Even his seeds didn’t come up for me. It’s me. Not nature.
  • My broccoli and greens went in too late, and the bugs had a field day with them.
  • I got lazy and didn’t plant any fall crops. I should have put in another batch of Swiss chard at least. Next year…Next year (I think I say that every year).
  • My garlic sprouted and then died (again). I’m going to figure garlic out someday too.

Trying New Things (That Flopped)

This year I had a few failures in the new plants realm:

  • I tried several new varieties of tomatoes and peppers. YUM. But some of them weren’t fantastic. I did NOT like the Purple Russians. They were very fleshy, almost grainy and split. This is a smaller one (they are usually almost twice this size). The plants didn’t produce a lot and most of them fell to the ground and rotted before I even realized they were ripe because they were heavy and the vine hold was weak. I will NOT be saving those seeds.
Tomatoes and gardening Purple Russian tomato review
  • My sunflowers sprouted magnificently in a new bed I was testing this year, but then flopped as soon as they bloomed. I’m not sure if they needed to be staked or if they needed deeper soil. I will probably try peppers there next year too and deepen the bed.
  • I planted Summer Squash inbetween the sunflowers and it HATED it there. The plants were small and very promising at first. But then I got one squash and everything else rotted. Not exactly sure if it got some kind of plant disease or if it was just too shallow there.
  • The bugs ate my peppers ALIVE. I should have waited to transplant them for a few weeks because a lot died and had to be replaced with extra starts. The tomatoes planted at the same time were fine.

Okay, not to scare you, but you can see just a few of the many things that can go wrong. But every year you learn what you should and shouldn’t be doing. It’s harder when you start with seeds, so maybe try starts first. I didn’t buy any starts at all for the first time this year—everything came from seeds!

You Have to Have the Knowledge to Pass it On

I had a great harvest and successful year, but there is always something to learn. These skills will die out if we don’t keep practicing them. I was taught by my grandfather, grandma, mother and family friends. And, I still look to them for advice when I get stuck (and oh how I love Google!).

When I talk about gardening, I get surprised reactions and told a lot by older adults that it’s unusual for someone my age to have such an enthusiasm for vegetable gardening. But I think it’s becoming more common with the Millennial generation. And as a huge bonus, my kids have found a love for vegetables just by being part of the growing experience.

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Whether you are planning in pots with a limited patio space, square foot gardening in raised beds or planting in a traditional vegetable garden, keep working on bringing fresh, organic food to your table!

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